Why it's no surprise to see Hartlepool United boss Dave Challinor being linked to other clubs as his reputation continues to grow
It’s no surprise to see Dave Challinor being linked with managerial vacancies.
The Hartlepool United boss emerged as an odds-on favourite to take over at his former club Stockport County overnight following their dismissal of Simon Rusk, and it is perhaps something Pools supporters will have to get used to in the coming weeks and months.
Challinor agreed a new three-year deal at Victoria Park last month which should afford Poolies a degree of security, safe in the knowledge the 46-year-old is committed to the cause at Victoria Park after a challenging summer, despite the club’s promotion back to the Football League.
To say that Challinor has worked miracles since his arrival nearly two years ago is one of the biggest understatements you could make.
As a club, Pools were rudderless and languishing in the bottom half of the National League table. Not only were the prospects of a return to the Football League bleak, but, at times, the day-to-day functionality and future of the club remained bleak. It was a club on its knees.
Two wins and three draws from his opening five matches was hardly grounds to suggest the tide was turning for Pools, and a disappointing Christmas period had the club looking over their shoulders once more.
But by the time the season was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, Challinor had guided Pools into the top half of the table and were just three points outside the play-off places.
Who knows whether they would have been able to go on and sneak a shot at promotion in the final month of the campaign?
But while hindsight is a wonderful thing, the break, it can be argued, benefited Challinor and Pools.
Yes, it meant another year in the wilderness outside of the Football League, but it allowed Challinor the opportunity to really implement his philosophies on the club – both on and off the pitch.
The rest, as they say, is history as Challinor provided Hartlepool with a truly memorable season which culminated in the promotion final win over Torquay United in June.
But what is remarkable is that Challinor has achieved this, for large parts, without the support of the Pools fanbase, who were locked away in their homes unable to attend Victoria Park.
With the perilous situation the club had found itself in prior to the pandemic, who knew how the atmosphere would have been when they were allowed to make their return?
And that is one of the many reasons why Challinor has done such a good job in the North East.
He has been able to galvanise the supporters and unite them with the club once more.
No longer are Pools a broken entity.
Now those 11 individuals on the field represent thousands in the stands, as though they have climbed down from the Town End themselves to put on the shirt.
Everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet and it is Challinor who is conducting the proceedings.
You only have to look at last weekend’s incredible turnaround victory over Harrogate Town, which is synonymous with what Hartlepool are as a club now.
At half time, 2-0 behind, supporters roared their team off the field at Victoria Park.
There were no boos, and there were no disgruntled voices. Within 14 minutes of the restart Pools had scored three times and went on to win the game.
The scenes after the game, led by the North West corner, were ones to behold.
Yes, this was only three points in part of a 46-game season, but it just felt like so much more. It can be felt by the players and the staff as well as the fans. Everyone is together. It’s hard not to become engrossed by it.
It was a result which left Pools in League Two play-off contention - unthinkable just 12 months ago as Challinor continues to add to his growing stature as a manager.
Six is the number which stands next to his ‘promotions won’ column on his CV having enjoyed multiple with previous clubs Colwyn Bay and AFC Fylde as well as an FA Trophy win with the Coasters.
And having hit the ground running in his debut campaign as a Football League manager it’s only a matter of time before clubs look at the Pools boss, and what he has done, with interests of their own.
For the moment, Stockport are the latest to have been credited with an interest in his services, which comes after Tranmere Rovers were linked last year.
But while Challinor may have made just short of 100 appearances for the Hatters as a player, the likelihood of him returning as manager anytime soon is slim.
Challinor has worked for 10 years to earn his crack at Football League management and shouldn't, you would think, turn that away to drop back down to the National League despite his connections to the club and the area.
But Pools fans will know there will be others waiting in the wings further down the line and from higher up the league pyramid who will be casting a watchful eye over Challinor.
The Pools boss often encourages supporters to live in the moment and they are very much doing that at present but one thing should be for certain, for however long it remains with Hartlepool, Challinor is here to stay in the Football League.